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March 8, 2011    

BRC: Retail sales down in February

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by Kay Murchie

Retail sales fell last month - providing further evidence of a fragile economic recovery.

According to the British Retail Consortium (BRC)/KPMG retail sales monitor, like-for-like sales fell 0.4% in February on an annual basis after a 2.3% rise in January.

The trade body attributed the fall to the ongoing squeeze on household incomes as fears about the economy weigh heavily on consumers.

BRC Director General Stephen Robertson comments: “Customers are cautious and are cutting back in a big way on non-essential spending.”

He added: “After the big boost to January’s figures from one-off factors, including a strong final burst of pre-VAT rise spending, February’s figures are a return to a more realistic picture of how things are for customers and retailers.”

The only retailers to enjoy positive sales last month were footwear and food and drink.

Sales of large furniture items suffered due to the VAT increase, which took effect on 4 January.

In other news today, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics) revealed the UK housing market remains weak.

However, it appears house price falls are easing. While prices in England and Wales continued to fall last month, it was at the slowest pace since last summer.

The Rics revealed 26% more surveyors reported house price falls than gains in February, from 31% in January – better than forecasts.

However, the Institution said the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the economy means buyer confidence remains low.

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